All posts in “Gadgets”

LeEco delays payroll until August due to ‘financial constraints’


Some LeEco employees in China will not get paid until August. According to an official statement provided to TechCrunch, Leshi Holdings, LeEco’s holding company has decided to postpone July’s payroll until August 10th. This is at least the third time this year LeEco has delayed paying some of its workers.

Right now, it seems only employees in China will not get a paycheck into August. Sources in LeEco say the company has not yet announced delaying paying US workers though in the past it reportedly did so without telling employees. Gizmodo and Bloomberg points to two separate incidents where LeEco missed paying their workers on time in 2017.

The statement says that it has contacted the affected employees and guarantee’s full payment to individual’s social insurance and housing fund.

Today’s news is just another entry in the tale of LeEco’s downfall.

Over the last several months, LeEco started spiraling out of control. Deals fell through, workers were laid off and billions in recent investment couldn’t right the ship. In May the outspoken founder and CEO Jia “YT” Yueting resigned from his post as CEO from the publicly traded unit Leshi. Then, five days ago , he stepped down as Leshi’s Chairman. This came a day after news broke that a Shanghai court had in response to unpaid loans frozen more than $180 million in assets belong to himself, his wife and three LeEco affiliates.

“LeEco faces great challenges, and I will take on all the responsibility, I will persist in my duties until the end for the sake of our employees, users, customers and investors,” Jia wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter.

Just yesterday news broke that Faraday Future, an electric vehicle company with ties to LeEco and Yueting, is scrapping plans to build a massive manufacturing facility in the Nevada desert.

At this point it seems LeEco is nearing the end of its life. The company was once called the Netflix of China and lead by a charismatic CEO who seemed intent on turning his company into a worldwide force almost overnight. It scaled too quickly, didn’t understand new markets and is now facing the consequences.

Contact Matt Burns at matt@techcrunch.com if you have any additional information regarding this story, LeEco or Faraday Future. All communication is confidential unless specified otherwise.

You can buy Tovala’s $399 smart oven starting today


Tovala, a $399 smart oven out of Y Combinator promising to perfectly cook ready-made meals in under 30 minutes is finally available for purchase.

It can bake, boil and steam meals at up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit in 10 to 30 minutes and works with either prepackaged Tovala meals or your own food. However, the real money maker for the startup will be in the meal delivery service.

It’s a crowded space with Postmates and other restaurant delivery as well as meal kits more similar to Sun Basket and Blue Apron. However, Tovala offers what it believes is a quicker way to make meals and with less clean-up.

“This is one of the biggest complaints with the meal kit companies – after all the cooking, you’re left with a ton of pots, pans and plates to clean. There’s literally no clean up required with our meals.” co-founder David Rabie said.

Right now, Tovala has two subscription plans: 3 single-serving meals for $36 or 3 double-serving meals for $72. Compare that to Blue Apron’s offering at 3 double-serving meals for $60 a week or the family plan serving two recipes per week at four servings each for $72.

Tovala tells TechCrunch it will eventually add a family plan as well as breakfast and dessert meals. For now you can choose from entrees like miso-glazed salmon or Moroccan chicken with chickpeas, goat cheese & corn pasta, for example.

Each Tovala packaged meal can feed up to four people, are made from scratch in the Tovala kitchen, and consist of 400 to 800 calories per serving. The startup also has a recipe library for creating meals with special diet restrictions such as paleo, vegan and gluten-free, if those are your preferred options.

We interviewed Tovala’s co-founders Rabie and Bryan Wilcox back in March when the company first launched. Check out the video below to see our original review a few months ago and get an idea of how this smart oven works.

Those interested in purchasing one for themselves or finding out more can go to Tovala.com.

The Caliper Slide Rule Watch will help you multiply and divide in the coming end times

When the apocalypse finally arrives, those with the booksmarts will be the upperymen. Maybe somebody you know will be the readerwriter and maybe somebody you know will learn how to make the brandywine and maybe you’ll have a bakerman among you but who will be the mather?

The mather will be the one with the Slide Rule watch from Caliper, and friends, the mather can be you. This mechanical watch runs a Miyota 82S0 automatic movement and features a unique slide rule bezel that lets you multiply and divide even if all electric everywhere goes dead shapes and you and your tribe have to hide from the Face Eaters in an old mall.

How does it work? To multiply, for example, align the first number to the first arrow and “find the second number on the same ring as the arrow and read across to find the result.” Division is a similar process. Caliper has outlined the instructions here and the watch can also manage currency and unit conversions.

The Leica TL2 brings mirrorless cameras to point-and-shoot size, but for a price


Leica always has a new artisan camera up its sleeves and today’s announcement is no different. The T series cameras have always been the size of an everyday point-and-shoot, but the TL2 introduces a new 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, making it worth shooting with the interchangeable lenses that range from 17mm to 200mm in focal length.

It’s pretty impressive, no matter how you spin it or what your needs are as a photographer. However, if you’re a sports or action shooter then you’re going to scoff at the TL2’s continuous shooting speeds — it tops out at 7 fps (with mechanical shutter) and 20 fps (with electronic shutter).

The TL2 is worth taking note of because it allows Leica’s T series to stay competitive against the faster, more powerful mirrorless cameras, including Leica’s own SL mirrorless full-frame camera.

Since there’s no optical or electronic viewfinder (unless you consider buying one for the hot shoe mount), all your photos will be seen through the 3.7-inch LCD screen. Leicas aren’t known for their video prowess, but the TL2 does support recording in 4K up to 30fps, full HD at 60fps or 720p HD at 120fps for slow motion capture.

The TL2’s ISO ranges from 50-50,000, an improvement from the TL1’s max ISO of 12,500. While it means you won’t see everything in the dark, but nevertheless won’t be afraid to whip out the TL2 past golden hour. Like most other modern cameras, the Leica TL2 can be used remotely from a phone app, where you can then import and export images to social media.

Leica TL2s will be available at Leica boutiques and authorized retailers starting today, for $1,950 (body-only) in black and silver color options.

Alexa devices get deep discounts for Amazon Prime Day


Amazon is deeply discounting its two most popular Alexa devices today, the Echo and Echo Dot, as the retailer’s annual Prime Day sale kicks off. Starting tonight at 6 PM PT, the Echo will receive a 50 percent price cut, making it $89.99, and the Echo Dot will drop by $15, bringing it down to $34.99. Meanwhile, Amazon’s bluetooth speaker with Alexa, the Amazon Tap, is $50 off, making it $79.90.

The sale on the Echo Dot is notable, given that a recent e-commerce study from Adobe identified the Alexa-powered smart speaker as the best seller among Amazon’s Echo line. Their report indicated the Dot’s lower price point attracted consumers, who perhaps saw the device as an affordable way to dip their toe into the waters of voice computing, without committing to the pricier Echo. Now, for Prime Day, the Dot is priced the lowest it has ever been.

Google Home devices had sold well during the 2016 holidays, thanks to a late year-end release, the report also said, but the Echo Dot then quickly caught up and surpassed it.

By the first quarter of the year, the Dot led smart speaker sales, accounting for 53 percent of the market compared with Google Home’s 30 percent share. (Adobe had only counted non-proprietary sales – meaning those outside of Amazon and Google’s first-party storefronts. That gives us a window into device popularity, but not the full picture, we should note.)

However, even at a 30 percent share, that put the Google Home ahead of other Echo devices including the original Echo and Amazon Tap.

With Prime Day, Amazon’s decision to bring down the Echo Dot to its lowest price ever could help it solidify its lead in the market, giving the retailer further momentum. And by discounting the Echo by 50 percent, Amazon could clear out older inventory – perhaps in advance of a hardware refresh.

That would be a timely move on Amazon’s part, given that Apple’s entry into voice-powered speakers, the HomePod, is expected to arrive at the end of this year. As Apple’s device is aimed more at music lovers than those who want a smart speaker, Amazon could counter with an upgraded, better-sounding Echo in response.

Amazon, however, already has the lead in smart speakers – other studies said that Amazon is expected to control 70 percent of the market this year. Boosting sales of Echo devices during Prime Day will only help it to further dominate; it’s not lagging behind anyone.

Also of interest, the retailer appeared to have been closely considering how to best price its Alexa devices in advance of the Prime Day sale. Though Amazon knew as soon as last year’s Prime Day wrapped that it would host another this summer, the decision on Echo device discounts was running so close to the wire that it wasn’t even included in Amazon’s official announcement of deals. A rep said it “missed the cutoff” – something that typically implies pricing was in flux down to the last minute.

Other Amazon devices on sale for Prime Day include its Bluetooth speaker Amazon Tap, Dash buttons, Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Voyage, Kindle Oasis, the Kindle for Kids bundle, the new Amazon Element 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (powered by Fire TV), Fire 7 tablet and Kids Edition, and Fire HD 8 tablet and Kids Edition. (The full list is here).

We should also point out that Amazon isn’t discounting either of its two newest Echo devices, the Echo Look or Echo Show. The only deal associated with either of those is a $75 savings on a bundle that combines the Show with the Arlo Security Camera. But it’s likely that Amazon doesn’t yet have the inventory to fulfill the expected Prime Day boost in orders for these new Alexa devices.

Plus, Amazon doesn’t really need to bring those prices down at this time to gain market share in their respective niches  – a smart speaker with a camera, and another with a screen. There is no real competition for either device from other major tech companies at this time, as both Google and Apple are playing catch up in the market Amazon helped create.

Ahead of Prime Day, analysts have been predicting that this year’s event could be Amazon’s largest ever. The retailer saw a 5 percent increase in consumers who shopped on Prime Day in 2016, which was up 20 percent from 2015, according to Kantar Retail. This year, Amazon is expected to set another record, it says.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin